Any analysis of an energy project should compare that project to the alternatives, not just simply that project to its absence. The Maine Sunday Telegram failed to carry out such basic comparisons in its Dec. 9 editorial.

A good energy policy begins with conservation. Find efficiencies that reduce the use of energy, winterize homes, use LED light bulbs, subsidize energy-efficient appliances and promote small-scale clean-energy alternatives.

Huge centralized power projects are not the most effective way to combat climate change – they are the most effective path to profits for large and powerful corporations. The more effective conservation measures do not lead to large profits, but they do lead to more local jobs and better quality of life. Imagine if the billion dollars that Massachusetts is investing in Hydro-Quebec were instead invested in local energy conservation and small-scale production.

Even if the Telegram editorial had not started with good energy policy, it should have at least compared the alternative routes for the power line. That comparison was made in a Nov. 18 Telegram news article that showed the shorter Vermont route, which is underground, to be the more environmentally sound alternative. Why wasn’t it chosen? It would cut into company profits as it is 20 percent more expensive than the Maine corridor.

The Telegram’s editorial ignores the copious evidence of environmental degradation caused by Hydro-Quebec documented in both Canadian and U.S. papers, including the inundation of huge tracts of land. The James Bay project alone inundated an area the size of New York state – a project that could not have gained approval here because of its massive destruction of habitat.

In addition, vegetation that is under water cannot absorb greenhouse gases. Instead, gaseous products of decomposition including methane (84 times more powerful in trapping heat than carbon dioxide) are produced by the project.

We cannot expect to save the planet by destroying what precious little natural environment we have left. Both northern Canada and western Maine are dependent on natural resource-based industries for our livelihood. Renewable forest products and tourism are our greatest assets. Those of us who live here have forsaken big paychecks and modern conveniences to live in a place of unparalleled natural beauty. There is no reason why Massachusetts should not be able to produce its own power in its own state without sacrificing rural Maine.


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